Sunday, March 23, 2008

There's Something Different This Time

This blog has been fairly quiet because I've been face down in development of MoneyWell 1.3, which is currently in beta test. Here's a peek at some of the changes:

  • Added scheduled transactions with user-defined repeat periods

  • Added ability to set a different currency for each account

  • Added currency exchange rate table and conversion

  • Added ability to hide buckets and accounts

  • Added ability to reconcile out of range transactions without affecting date

  • Added context menus throughout main window

  • Added ability to set bucket as optional on a transaction

  • Added ability to set date range for reporting

  • Added Transaction Report with subtotals

  • Added Bucket Summary Report

  • Added Tax Detail Report

  • Added Tax Summary Report

  • Added Combined Income Buckets option to Allocate Income

  • and many more...

It's shaping up to be a pretty nice release, but what has really impressed me is my beta test team. Posting a product for beta testing is a very iffy deal. When I post a beta, I hope that some testers will catch bugs I've missed and provide feedback on new features, but I keep my expectations low because people are busy and don't usually end up participating much in the testing. Once in a while, I'll get one or maybe two active testers.

This time it's very different. Not only do I have almost 50 beta testers, 20% of them are actively testing and giving me feedback. There are still a couple of stars that do the majority of the heavy lifting, but this time they are not alone. I'm thrilled and blessed to have such an enthusiastic group to make my job easier.

Not only am I getting excellent bug reporting and feedback, but I'm getting emails that are filled with words of encouragement and pats on the back. I couldn't ask for a better group. In previous companies, I've had employees that didn't give me this much time and effort. This is a public thank you to all those who are contributing to making MoneyWell a better product!

I'm pretty sure I know why this is happening: People respond to passion. They see that I'm not just building a product to earn money. They respond to craftsmanship and hard work. There are always going to be people looking for the lowest price or a "good deal," but that's not the customer base I want. I know that I'll lose them to the next lowest bidder and quality just isn't very important to that crowd.

Here's how to build a fantastic customer base:

  1. Create excellent products that solve real problems

  2. Care about the fit and finish and not just the features

  3. Eat your own dog food—you should be using what you create so you feel your customers' pain when there are problems

  4. Answer emails quickly and genuinely—don't send automated responses

  5. Listen to your customers: You don't have to add every feature requested, but you should respond to why you won't add something (people will understand when you do something for the greater good of the customer base)

  6. Be honest and don't be afraid to fall on the sword, "I screwed up and broke this release. It's being fixed in the next patch. Sorry for any trouble this has caused you."

  7. You have to honestly care about your customers—the passion has to be real or you'll come off as a con artist

What has also helped in my case is this blog. People know more about my life, my history, and my ambitions for the future of No Thirst Software. They know that I'm in this for the long haul and that this isn't just a college sideline project to make a few extra bucks. There are six people in my family that depend on this company growing and thriving (and hopefully a few thousand customers care too).

If you want to have a great company, with great customers, you've got to go "all in."